The story of a group of astronomers launched to the moon in
a home-made ship, once they land, they meet the moons inhabitants – mad
theatrical antics ensue!
If you were looking for proof that director Georges Méliès was
a pioneer in special effects and filmmaking – A Trip to the Moon is a great
example. This short film will be known by many for the iconic image of the face
in the moon with a rocket in its eye.
When Arrow Academy announced the Blu-ray release of this
film, I jumped at the chance to review this film. My interest in Méliès was
captured when I first saw Martin Scorseses HUGO (2011), Méliès was portrayed by
Ben Kingslay and bang in the middle of that movie we’re given a 10-minute
history lesson on the life and career of Georges Méliès – it fascinated me.
I was given the Blu-ray disc only from the distributor to
review on this occasion – it didn’t include the Long-Lost Autobiography: Father
of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Cinema. But! The Blu-ray is good enough for me to talk
about – at length!
Speaking of length, I was genuinely surprised that the films running was no longer than twenty minutes. This disc contains both the Black & White original (12 minutes) and the Colourised print of the movie (16 minutes). So, for a short film, that’s why you got a short synopsis at the start of this review. Now, I’m sure you would feel pretty miffed off if you’ve just shelled out £49.99 for the set, only to be given a cloth bound book and a 15-minute movie, thankfully it’s all about the special features.
Firstly, we have Le Grand Méliès (1952) – a short film
directed by Georges Franju about the life and work of Méliès, Georges is
portrayed by his son; André Méliès. It runs for 30 minutes following Georges life
story. What I liked about this feature was that you are given the option to
view the film with either the original audio narration in French with subtitles
or listen to it dubbed into English. It was nice of them to give us the option.
A great bonus feature, which is definitely worth watching.
The Innovations of Georges Méliès – new video essay by Jon
Spira exploring A Trip to the Moon and Méliès’ career is a 12-minute feature
with Spira talking over footage of Méliès work, we get to see footage from some
of his other movies – some of which I am now more interesting in devouring.
An Extraordinary Voyage – is a 66-minute documentary on the
life of Georges, his filmography and then we get an extensive look into the story
of finding the colour print and a great detailed look into the restoration process.
It also features some stock footage of Tom Hanks acting as Méliès for TV, its
great footage, something I never knew existed – it’s a great special feature
that beefs up this release.
The only thing I think we were missing from the special features
is an audio commentary, I would have loved to heard someone talk over the movie
giving us their take on the story, dropping us some facts or trivia about this wonderful
piece of cinema history. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers!
Overall Arrow Academy have spoiled us with this cinematic
gem, they’ve polished the best they can with a handful of well-thought-out special
features. I couldn’t recommend it for it’s retail price, but if this was ever
on sale or second-hand and you have the mildest interest in cinema history or
silent movies – I would certainly recommend this blu-ray. Bon Voyage!
Set in post-World War II Val Melaina (Rome), Bicycle Thieves
(also known as The Bicycle Thief) tells the tale of Antonio Ricci, a father desperate
for work to support his wife, Maria and his cheeky son Bruno. Antoino’s thinks
his luck is on the up when he’s offered a job in advertising, pasting
advertising boards with posters showing off the latest Rita Hayworth picture.
There’s only one catch though, the applicant must have a
bicycle to do the job. Antonio looks at this opportunity as blessing and a
curse, but the thinker of the family, Maria quickly makes the money by pawning
their lining to get her husband a set of wheels. And we all know what happens
to the bike right?
Vittorio De Sica delivers a wonderfully cinematic story,
although tragic, it kept me engaged and willing myself to see Antonio reunited
with his bicycle. I would have loved to have seen the reaction of audiences
seeing this film back in the forties, how would they respond to the ending they
were given? It left me surprised, whilst this time of ending isn’t unusual
nowadays – but I imagine this would have caught people off guard back in the
Bicycle Thieves has been given a brand new 4K restoration
from UK Label Arrow Academy; the special features include a feature length
audio commentary from Italian Cinema expert Robert Gordon. I listened to a
sample of the track, Robert is easy to listen to, he isn’t constantly talking
over the film, but when he does, he does a good job at explaining the film and
sprinkling in trivia when it’s relevant to the characters on screen.
This release also features two video essays, both last
roughly twenty minutes and both were produced particularly for this release.
The essays are narration playing over montages of clips and pictures and posters.
The first essay is; Money Has Been My Ruin by critic and filmmaker David
Cairns on Vittorio De Sica’s career and his filmmaking.
Secondly, we have; Indiscretion of an American Film
Producer from film historian Kat Ellinger on De Sica’s relationship with Hollywood
producers David O. Selznick and Joseph H. Levine and the blue prints of the American
remake that never was. I did find this essay particularly interesting; the
story of the proposed American remake was fascinating.
One last thing I want to bring to your attention, the disc
also features an original trailer. Now it’s not your standard, graining 2-3
minutes theatrical trailer, there one is like a promo reel advertising De Sica
s films, featuring Bicycle Thieves star Lamberto Maggiorani and Francesco
Golisano presenting Miracle in Milan. It was a nice touch, a charming little
Overall it was great to finally watch this movie and it had some
nice special features to back it up, enough to compliment a one disc release. Un
must per gli appassionati del cinema italiano classico.